Introduction

Introduction

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The main focus of our research is investigating events that happen in early pregnancy when the placenta forms, and what happens when these processes lead to pregnancy disorders such as pre-eclampsia. During normal pregnancy, after implantation of the blastocyst (pictured) fetal trophoblast cells from the placenta invade into the uterus of the mother. Changes occur to the mothers blood vessels (the spiral arteries in the uterus) which ensure a sufficient blood supply is delivered to the baby as it grows and develops. In pre-eclampsia, a major cause of maternal and perinatal morbidity, trophoblast cells show poor invasion and there are insufficient changes to the uterine blood vessels. 

We are investigating the regulation of trophoblast cell invasion, motility and survival and the cellular and molecular mechanisms responsible for the remodelling of maternal vessels in early pregnancy. We are also investigating the role maternal immune cells may play in this process, and to do this, we are also investigating in the vascular endothelial cells and smooth muscle cells which make up the spiral arteries. The formation of the placenta is a highly complex and tightly regulated process that is essential for the establishment of a healthy pregnancy. Despite this the factors that regulate this process are still poorly understood.

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